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Spring 2013: Employee Wellness Programs

Does it make sense to offer a workplace program to improve employee wellness?

In a word, yes.

Increasing evidence shows that wellness programs can make a significant impact on both health and productivity. A 2012 study conducted at Harvard Business School concluded that, among the programs studied, medical costs fell by approximately $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs, and costs associated with absentee day costs fell by about $2.73 for every dollar spent. The reported savings included only audited hard-dollar savings achieved within the first twelve months and the study included over twenty companies drawn from a wide array of industries

Those are impressive numbers. And while the Harvard study focused primarily on “rigorous” programs, the findings are by no means unusual.

Companies implementing a wide range of health-related programs and incentives have seen significant gains. Examples include:

  • DuPont's Worksite Health Promotion pilot sites saw a saving of 11,726 disability days and a return of U.S. $2.05 for every dollar invested by the end of the second year,
  • Johnson & Johnson estimated an average saving of U.S. $224.66 per employee per year for the four years examined after the program introduction, with the bulk of the savings being in the third and fourth years,
  • Coca Cola report saving $500 every year per employee after implementing a fitness program, with only 60% of their employees participating,
  • Coors Brewing Co. reported that for each dollar spent on their Corporate Wellness Program they saw a $5.50 return, and the employees who participated reduced their absentee rate by 18%, and
  • Prudential Insurance Company reported that the benefits costs for employees participating in their program were $312, as opposed to $574 for non-participants

Where to start?
Fine, you’re convinced that a wellness program would be a great idea. But what if you’re not a big corporation? Chances are, your HR department already has its hands full, and your benefits director doesn’t have a lot of time to source, design and implement a plan to promote better health.

Where do you begin?
The good news is, getting started might be easier than you think. First, realize that wellness programs come in all shapes and sizes, starting with something as simple and inexpensive as a campaign postcard to increase health awareness.

Better still, you may already have highly professional resources at your disposal, available at little or no cost, through your medical benefits carrier. Some typical Wellness programs may include:

  • Biometric screenings
  • Health risk assessments
  • Health coaches
  • Disease management programs

Get employees to participate
So you’ve got your wellness program, expectations are high, and you’re ready to begin. However, there’s one more bit a work to do, and the success of your program may depend on doing it right.

A well-designed communications strategy is a key ingredient to the success of any wellness program. BeneCom’s experience in wellness communications – from campaign branding and promotion to media creation development and deployment – will help you to educate and engage employees, keep them motivated, and give them the encouragement they need to get – and stay – involved.

We specialize in partnering with you to build customized print and electronic media, for results that no pre-packaged literature kit can match.

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate

    Once you’ve developed your wellness program elements, you need to create a compelling communication campaign. Research has shown that wellness programs succeed only when employees know what’s available and how to get involved. If employees don’t participate you don’t want it to be because they didn’t know how, when and where to take part! Keep your messages simple and concise, easy to read, understand and act upon. Also, use different methods of communicating based on what is effective for your audience.

    An affordable first step in your communications plan is an employee health and wellness newsletter. When delivered via email or website, costs are kept to a minimum. But no matter how you communicate with employees, you are telling them that you care about them, their families and their health and well-being.
  • Understanding your audience

    Who is your audience and how do you reach them? In addition to your employees and their dependents, you may have others who are not actively at work but who are covered under your medical plan. COBRA participants, employees on leave and retirees are groups often overlooked but very critical to any cost savings your wellness plan may realize.

    Think about what motivates these different categories of covered people. What is the best way to communicate with them? For example, would you reach the spouses if you only provided information in the workplace or would items mailed to the home be better? Or, would your retirees be more likely to read a paper newsletter than an article posted on a Web site? If so, then a low tech and high touch approach would be more effective.
  • How to measure success: Look at both quantitative and qualitative results

    A comprehensive wellness strategy includes goals, a multi-year strategy and metrics to measure return on investment (ROI). Wellness programs should help improve the health and productivity of employees while delivering financial results to your company.

    An often-overlooked result of wellness programs is the positive impact on employee morale. Employees feel valued when employers show concern for the well-being of their employees. Wellness programs are more successful when the benefits are relevant and meaningful to employees.
  • Be consistent

    Implement worksite policies and environmental changes that support healthy living. For example, check out and revamp the offerings in the company’s vending machine. There are healthy alternatives to the 3:00 PM chocolate bar. Consider sponsoring group weight loss programs in the workplace or exercise classes and walking clubs.

    Finally, remember it is okay to have some fun along the way. Employee engagement and behavior change will be the result with the right combination of incentives and information.

Ready? Let’s talk!
Contact us today for a free no-obligation consultation on building an employee wellness communication program. Call 860-674-2626 or email us at info@benecomassociates.com.

Sources
http://naturalhealthcare.ca/benefits_of_a_wellness_program.phtml
http://www.healthylife.com/template.asp?pageID=41
http://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/5345879/Workplace%20Wellness%20
Programs.pdf?sequence=1

http://us.virginhealthmiles.com/resources/Documents/
SurveySummary_NEWM2012.pdf

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